Tuscany: Castello di Brolio
Posted on 4 Aug ’12 by Earl Moore
We’d scheduled a tour of the Castello di Brolio and then dinner nearby for our last evening in Tuscany. However due to a late start and a longer drive then anticipated we missed joining the official castle tour group. Here’s a little information about this landmark:
“The impressive Castello di Brolio dominates the southern Chianti Classico countryside and has done so for over ten centuries. Located on top of an isolated hill a few kilometers from Gaiole in Chianti, the castle has Lombardic origins and has been property of the Ricasoli family since 1141.
Even though it is closer to Siena, which can be seen in the distance and is just 20 km away, the castle has always been under the influence of Florence and used as one of its strategical outposts. Because of this, the castle was besieged and destroyed many times over the centuries. Every time it has been reconstructed following the style of the current age. It suffered its last attack during World War II, as can be noticed by the holes left by shrapnel all over facade.
The castle we see today is partly the new-Gothic reconstruction ordered by Bettino Ricasoli in the 1800s. The Renaissance gardens with typical geometric shaped bushes and the English woods are stunning and from here you can admire a breathtaking view over the Chianti region. On the horizon, during clear, sunny days, you can clearly see Siena.”
Since 1141, the Ricasoli family has been making wines from the vineyards surrounding their estate, Brolio Castle, making it the world’s 2nd oldest winemaking operation and the oldest under continuous family control.
Baron Ricasoli still has residency in the castle but also a home in Florence, Italy. He still runs the family businesses and vineyards. I’ll share more on the vineyards in a later post.
Missing the tour group turned into a very wonderful experience when we were allowed to enter the castle grounds and meander about at our own pace…
…for us it certainly beat walking through darkened rooms listening to a memorized rendition of each room’s history and then being rushed through a portion of the grounds. At least that’s what I imagined it to be like on the tour.
We wandered completely around the parameters of the main outside walls. These main walls were easily 40-50 feet high, or more, and at one time was surrounded by a moat with a drawbridge at the main gate/entrance.
The inside of the walls were mostly filled with dirt so that ground level inside was in many cases almost level with the tops of the main walls.
Inside there were other massive buildings and structures with what could probably become a secondary wall defense.
There are paths and walkways along the outer parameter of the main walls which can be walked and guard towers in some corners. However, during our self-tour we didn’t see a soul–nice!
You’ll notice the smoke in the western sky in some of these photos. There was a fire burning not too far to the west of us. It may have been some type of controlled burn but it did provide a smokey filter to the evening sun for a while.
Dinner was only a short drive down the hillside and turned out to be a unique setting under tents within the forest. A sampling of Tuscany cuisine and wine was served as the sun set through the trees.
This was our last night in Tuscany and the next morning we set off west for La Specia and the Cinque Terra coast. If you’re thinking I probably took some photos there too, you’d be right.